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Good policing relies upon information and intelligence. It is what supports and underpins the many thousands of decisions which police officers and staff take every day during the course of exercising their powers or discharging their duties. Information and intelligence about people and locations is important, but so too is the detail of criminal offences or police procedures, or just knowledge about which approach is most effective in cutting crime.

We want the policing that we deliver to the public to be the very best it can be, which is why the information we give our officers and staff has to be up-to-date and authoritative, as well as delivered in a way which makes it practically useful. Of course policing must be dynamic and willing to embrace risk - no one can stop to consult a textbook in the middle of a developing situation. But equally knowledge and guidance has to be made available, as an invaluable tool to assist good decision-making.

This is where Authorised Professional Practice, or APP for short, comes in. The aim is create a concise, searchable, and authoritative body of knowledge to support police officers and staff. Over the last 10 years we have developed many policies and procedure guidance documents which were all aimed at making us better at doing the job. The extent of the guidance reflects the increasing complexity of the job we ask police officers and staff to do, and also our desire to improve policing standards in response to critical incidents, inspections or recommendations of the past. However we have developed over 650 individual products – and they are a mix of national standards, operational guidance and reference material -covering everything from homicide investigation to policing cricket matches.

The net effect has been more guidance than anyone can realistically read, let alone draw on in real life situations. My first task in 2011 when taking on a review of all this was to define the issues where national policing guidance was really needed - those activities which are core to policing such as investigation, intelligence and custody. In addition, we have looked at those high risk issues where police officers and staff have to work across force boundaries and with other agencies - where close working or 'interoperability' is crucial. So again, we have consolidated guidance in areas such as armed policing, civil contingencies and public order. The benefit of such an approach can be seen in situations where officers from around the country have been mobilised to respond to planned events such as the Olympics, or unplanned ones such as the riots in 2011.

Before APP, the variety of reference documents - on even an activity such as investigation - consisted of up to 50 manuals which officers might wade through. So there is a clear benefit to bringing information together in one place, ensuring it is up to date and accessible to officers and staff across the country. As we continue to professionalise the service I think that we will all be consulting APP more and more to ensure that we base our actions on the latest guidance, rather than what we can remember of what we were taught on a training course a few years ago. APP is designed to be made simply available to officers and staff via police force intranets. All chief constables have endorsed it and we are urging police forces to add a simple click through button on their force home page.

APP will continue to develop with new content being added and the platform being developed and improved. The electronic format allows us to keep the content up to date as policing knowledge and practice develops. APP will also underpin training and it will be within the responsibilities of the new College of Policing which comes into being in December 2012. The work we have done in ACPO and the NPIA over the last 18 months will shape the professional delivery of policing over years to come.

Sara Thornton is Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, vice-president of the Association of Chief Police Officers and the ACPO lead for Authorised Professional Practice.


A full demonstartion can be viewed here: